I don't want to frighten away this beautiful weather we've been having off and on, but it does appear that spring has finally sprung. And that means spring vegetables are in full effect right now. After months of sad non-seasonal produce (whether you go frozen or canned, or shell out for the stuff that's been shipped for hundreds of miles) you can finally find fresh, local, delicious vegetables at the farmer's market or grocery store.
One thing that you may not have tried is the veggie that cooks like a fruit: rhubarb. These tall, slender stalks (think pinkish-red celery in looks if not taste) are tart but more earthy than lemon or oranges. It's best sliced, tossed with sugar and cooked into a sauce or as filling for a pie or the fruit in a cobbler. However, the people I know who grew up on farms and know what to do with the gift of perennial produce love rhubarb stalks simply washed and dipped, bite by bite, into a saucer of sugar.
When we moved into our house, we inherited a huge rhubarb plant (and happened to move in in the springtime, right as it was becoming perfectly ripe). My husband, who's descended from farmers and thus all about the beauty of rhubarb, was thrilled. I was a little less so, but gamely learned how to use it. The best, and most health-conscious, thing I came up with was to mix it with an already-sweet fruit like strawberries so it can be made edible without having to add too much sugar. They taste great paired, not surprising given the principle of "what grows together goes together." It cooks beautifully into a vibrant, deep pink, sweet-tart sauce or jam and is amazing on frozen yogurt or even eaten on its own like applesauce.
Rhubarb boasts some pretty hardcore health benefits: It's very high in Vitamin C and dietary fiber, and a good source of Vitamin K. Just don't eat the leaves…they're full of a toxin called oxalic acid that can cause poisoning in high doses.
Do you like rhubarb? How do you use it?